Axiom, The Reader

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3/23/2020 8:31 PM

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Hi, I'm Axiom. I'm working on a cool visual novel with guns and wizards and things. If you're interested, you can follow me on Twitter for updates:

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Corona Tag! on 3/22/2020 10:36:52 PM

MAY, 2020

Driver 1849 climbs the mountain.

He had another name once, but he can no longer quite recall it. Like many things, it was lost in the disaster, one more irrelevant detail from the old world. He's just a driver now, though his truck is miles behind him, abandoned at the last stretch of passable road. The asphalt under him is cracked and ruined, large chunks thrust up at steep angles or missing altogether. He must pick his way with care, lest the towering stack of packages strapped to his back bowl him over. If he trips here and breaks an ankle, no one will rescue him.

He rounds a bend and comes to an overlook. The sky stretches before him, and below it rolling hills and forests stretching down to the water. Across the water lies Seattle.

He pauses to look at the city. Skyscrapers lean and crumble under the weight of overgrowth, black holes where windows used to be staring like eyes at the drones milling underneath. Flocks of birds circle cranes choked with flowering vines. From the center of it all rises the fortress of Amazonia, a vast edifice of steel and glass. He imagines he can see the window-cleaners from here, dangling like tiny spiders in their non-OSHA-compliant harnesses as they polish the superstructure's surface to a mirror shine.

He checks his watch, then turns back to the road. His feet are starting to crack and bleed in the remains of his shoes, and the straps of his pack cut into his shoulders, but he can't afford to be late. Not with this customer. He settles his respirator with its friendly curved arrow firmly on his face and resumes the journey.

At last a large compound comes into view, concrete walls rising above the trees with armed guards patrolling their tops. He's heard of this place, but he's never been here. Few have, and left again.

The ruined road ends in a checkpoint. He approaches, and a hard-faced man in a face mask and scraps of leather armor steps in front of him. A flash of movement, and Driver 1849 is staring down the barrel of an assault rifle.

It's an Amazon Basics model, he notes dimly. They were half off last week for Prime members.

The hard-faced man gives him a searching look over the sights of the gun. "Identify yourself."

With trembling hands Driver 1849 draws out his ID badge and proffers it. "I have a delivery for Karen White."

The name thrills in the pit of his stomach. The drivers consider it bad luck to even speak it.

But against all odds, he volunteered for this. If he can pull this off, it'll put him in contention for driver of the month, and with it its complimentary extra scoop of gruel in the drivers' slophouse. He lies awake some nights on his frigid warehouse cot, stomach gnawing his spine, and dreams of that scoop.

The guard studies the badge, then steps aside. "Fine. Go on in."

Reluctant steps take him across the threshold. Inside the walls, the compound bustles with activity. Masked warriors lounge next to bags of beans and rice tossed in careless piles. As he passes, they stare at him. He swallows and hurries forward.

In the center of the compound is a pavilion, and inside the pavilion is her. Karen White, the raider queen. Long streamers of white wind around her body, woven into an elaborate dress that flutters with every movement. It's an unthinkable waste in these times. A show of power, no doubt.

She lounges on her famed porcelain throne. The back of it is extended with a vast number of cans welded together, the top ones fanning out in an array of spikes. Their tips are rusted with red. The blood of her enemies? Or just canned tomato? He doesn't want to know.

He carefully unstraps the pack on his back and sets the boxes down in a neat stack, placing one before her as a sample. He waits. A gas mask covers her face, but he can still see her eyes behind it, as cold and pale as ice. At length she gestures to the box as if it's some dead vermin.

"Open it."

He kneels down and obeys. The Prime Shipping tape tears easily in his hands. He unfolds the cardboard flaps delicately, then lifts out the contents and sets them before her with the care such high-end merchandise deserves. That he could bring so much is a testament indeed to the power of his employer.

Those cold eyes rake over the cargo. He can't read her expression.

A nervous smile curls his lips. He's an hour before his scheduled delivery time, and the cargo is in pristine condition. Surely anyone would be pleased.

She surges to her feet and drives her foot into the cargo. It tumbles across the floor and smacks him in the face.

"Garbage. Complete garbage. This is Quilted Northern. I ordered Charmin."

She towers over him. He presses his forehead to the ground in obeisance.

"I am so sorry. They were out of stock till next Tuesday, so we had to substitute."

"Do you know who I am? I accept no substitutions."

"There's been a lot of demand--"

"Silence, worm. Your manager will hear of this."

He went through so much to bring her this. The long hours across the burning asphalt. His cracked and bleeding feet. None of it matters to her, does it?

He says nothing. It won't help. He just keeps his eyes fixed on the floor.

In his peripheral vision, he sees her feet approach.

"If you lick my boots, I might forgive you," she says.

"Lick your boots?" The suggestion is unthinkable. All he can do is dumbly repeat it.

"That's right. Take off your respirator."

In these times, that's a death sentence.

A cruel laugh comes from behind her gas mask. It floats through his insides like a spark and ignites some long-buried ember of rage.

He slowly draws himself to his feet.

"You know what?" he says.

She looks taken aback. "What?"

"Go fuck yourself, Karen."

"What? Excuse you--"

He shoves her. She stumbles back, trips over the toilet paper, falls. Her guards surge towards him. But he's already running, battered feet eating up the ground at a pace only a seasoned delivery man could maintain, the leather-clad warriors pounding after him.

He doesn't head for the gate. He knows that's suicide. Instead he bounds up the stairs to the top of the wall, decks the guard at the top, and leaps off. The canopy surges towards him. He plummets down, branches and leaves whipping at his face, and crashes to the ground.

He pulls himself to his feet. A few minor lacerations, maybe a sprained wrist, but he's fine. He's free.

He runs. Distant shouts echo behind him. But he's fast, and they soon fall behind him. He runs all the way down the mountain, across the shattered burning asphalt, until he gets back to his truck. And when he reaches his truck, he doesn't stop driving until he reaches the safety of his warehouse.

He takes a few moments to rest, heart still pumping with the adrenaline. But he's safe now. Karen won't remember him, surely. Service workers are all the same to people like her. The thought of losing the extra scoop of gruel hurts, but it could have been worse, all things considered.

When he's calmed down, he fills out the paperwork for the day's deliveries and goes inside. His manager is at her usual desk. She accepts the report.

"Thank you, Driver 1849."

He turns to leave.

"Wait," she says. He turns back.

She stands, clasps his shoulder, and smiles kindly. "I'm sorry. Your customer satisfaction rating has recently been downgraded to 4.9 stars."

He stands frozen, horror welling in his chest. He knows what this means.

"Effective immediately, your employment is terminated." 

"But--you can't--I've worked for Amazon for twenty-seven years! I've never taken a sick day in my life!"

"We have room here only for the best." Her voice is bored. The conversation is over.

She turns away and waves a hand. Security personnel encircle him. "Throw him into the pit."

The first hand seizes his shoulder. He tries to throw it off, but then they're all over him, dragging him away. He screams, but it's too late.

Behind him, a door opens. It's dark inside, and cold wind tears through his clothes. The sound of a thousand throats coughing beats against his eardrums.


They toss him in, and he sprawls across the cold concrete. He rights himself and crawls back towards the entrance, but clammy fingers grasp his ankles and drag him back. He stretches one hand uselessly towards the square of light.

The door slams shut, and the world goes black.

Villain Lair on 12/27/2017 5:29:54 PM

I unbanned you. You didn't do anything, I was just blanket banning most of the new people.

Villain Lair on 12/27/2017 4:43:08 PM

I mean, it accomplished the goal of getting him banned, but can't he at least put in more effort? Back in my day, when we trolled foreign IRC channels, we took pride in our craftsmanship.

Villain Lair on 12/27/2017 4:25:18 PM

Honestly, I was incredibly embarrassed for Ford. I mean, setting out to troll until you're banned is one thing, but asking all the women for nudes? Who thinks that's clever or funny in the year of our lord 2017? I feel like I just watched a toddler walk into my living room, take a huge steaming dump on the rug, and giggle like it's the height of comedy.

Villain Lair on 12/27/2017 4:21:33 PM

Well, I don't really have a problem with Tim. He was just kind of caught in the crossfire. In a war, there will be casualties.

Seriously though, I banned a couple of people who didn't really do anything specifically to keep the flood of newbs under control. I'm open to unbanning them and introducing them slowly at a later date, pending a discussion about whether they're appropriate additions to our community.

Villain Lair on 12/27/2017 3:51:25 PM

If your name is on this list, please be advised that I disapprove of this influx of questionable new people. If you're even slightly annoying, you will be banned.

Inktober/Goretober on 10/2/2017 12:21:14 AM

I'm gonna give it a stab, but I'm doing it digitally. I'm working on my fundamentals, so I'm probably just going to draw straight from photo refs for the whole month.

Axiom's Art on 2/14/2017 7:25:47 PM

The backgrounds are generally around 15-40 hours.


Axiom's Art on 2/14/2017 7:24:57 PM

It has meaning. It's an art asset for my visual novel.

Axiom's Art on 2/12/2017 10:24:16 PM

It did. Maybe like 15-20 hours.